Although the majority of ACTA negotiators were from EU members, and the EU even sent representatives to the ACTA signing ceremony, a review of the treaty's legal ramifications is required before it can be ratified.
The review process is underway, with a presentation of analysis from the EP Legal Service to the Committee on International Trade (INTA) is scheduled on November 23. However, that analysis will not be released to the public.
The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure, a non-profit group advocating against ACTA, sent a letter to INTA Chairman Vital Moreira protesting this secrecy. They believe it violates EU law.
On 21 June 2011, the coordinators of the INTA committee decided to ask the Parliament?s legal service an opinion on ACTA. This decision was illegal for two reasons. First, the ACTA text had already been published, the discussion should have taken place in public. Second, coordinators can prepare decisions, but can not take them.
Withdrawing the opinion may provide the best way out. The INTA committee can then ask, after a public discussion, for a public legal service?s opinion on ACTA, which has to take into account the prior discourse on ACTA. Asking the European Court of Justice an opinion on ACTA is a better option.
Realizing their opposition would not result in the changes they requested, FFII also demanded the Legal Service opinion be released to the public.
Moreira responded with a letter indicating the opinion will not be made public, making a weak excuse:
This is not to be confused with an exchange of views on the ACTA file itself, which will certainly be conducted in public.
Needless to say, FFII was not deterred, sending a response of their own, arguing:
We agree that the Parliament will have to balance the interest to be protected by non-disclosure and public interest in disclosure. While doing this, the Parliament will have to take into account art 103 of its Rules of Procedure: "1. Parliament shall ensure that its activities are conducted with the utmost transparency, in accordance with the second paragraph of Article 1 of the Treaty on European Union, Article 15 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and Article 42 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union."
You can be sure the opinion will not be released to the public, just as you can bet it claims there are no legal issues with ACTA. But ultimately, it is also likely this dispute guarantees a lawsuit if ACTA is ratified in the EU.
Written by: Rich Fiscus @ 15 Nov 2011 13:00